Thursday 22 June 2023

How many hours per year do I spend fighting Youtube's censorship and copyright system?

[I probably spent two hours doing this TODAY (both dealing with censorship AND copyright, entailing separate pseudo-legal processes).  How many hours does it add up to in a year?]

This concerns my parody video found on YouTube: 

This is a parody presenting original lyrics over a familiar melody for purposes of comedy and social criticism: there is absolutely zero ambiguity as to how American law and YouTube policy apply in this case.

Representatives of your organization have filed an erroneous takedown notice that will remove this video (from public view) within seven days.

Quoting Cornell University's Legal Information website:

"In the United States, parody is protected by the First Amendment as a form of expression. However, since parodies rely heavily on the original work, parodists rely on the fair use exception to combat claims of copyright infringement. The fair use exception is governed by the factors enumerated in section 107 of the Copyright Act: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the original work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the original work used; and (4) the effect on the market value of the original work. Generally, courts are more likely to find that a parody qualifies as fair use if its purpose is to serve as a social commentary and not for purely commercial gain."

Quoting Wikipedia:

"Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994), was a United States Supreme Court copyright law case that established that a commercial parody can qualify as fair use.[1] This case established that the fact that money is made by a work does not make it impossible for fair use to apply; it is merely one of the components of a fair use analysis."

Note that this court precedent (510 U.S. 569 (1994)) directly concerns a parody song (original lyrics over a beat/music owned by someone else).

This is the most clearly protected form of freedom of speech under (1) Youtube's own policies, (2) U.S. law and also (3) Canadian law. Youtube has its own guideline videos on "fair use" and "transformative content" that explicitly protect this form of free expression —and it is even more expressly protected when the purpose is political commentary social criticism.

If it were not legal to create original lyrics over an established melody (or beat) that would have a chilling effect on both comedy and political discourse: it would create two classes of speech, one that can be criticized, and one that cannot (indeed, the latter class could not even be quoted without violating copyright).  Fair use is not a trivial concept, ethically, legally or politically; parody itself may seem trivial, but the suppression of parody through the misuse of copyright claims on youtube is a substantial violation of civil rights.